Superhuman

3 Oct

Make way for the Superhumans, they said. And we did. Buoyed up on the success of Olympic Team GB, we were glued to our screens – unless lucky enough to be in the stadium – as the Game Makers (I love that phrase, its so Hunger Games!) un-veiled another fantastic show for us. The opening ceremony of the games was as appropriate as it was exciting. Stephen Hawking (or should that be Stephen Hawking CH, CBE, FRS, FRSA?), the genius theoretical physicist who also happens to have motor neurone disease playing an enormous part within the story-line of The Tempest, all about curiosity and discovery, spoke for itself; We should all be curious, we should all strive forward in order to make new discoveries, we should all aspire to do and be more. All of us, the able-bodied and the disabled. The whole of humanity. The beautiful statue of pregnant Alison Lapper, the famous artist who has Phocomelia – which caused her to be born without arms and with truncated legs – took centre stage among many performers, of various shapes and sizes and using various types of equipment as a beacon of just what disabled people can be capable of.

The games themselves were exhilarating. Most of us were unable to watch the telly all day and all night but I’m sure that you, like me, loved hearing great Team GB news every time you saw a newspaper, listened to the radio or went online. Phenomenal achievements like that of 17 year old Ellie Simmonds, the young swimmer who has achondroplasia (dwarfism) and won 2 gold medals, taking 5 seconds off of the world record time for the 400m freestyle left us gob-smacked and swelling with pride. I was lucky enough to see David Weir win a heat in the athletics and Hannah Cockroft win her first gold medal, and I can confirm that watching those two push themselves around the track left me in no doubt as to their superhuman powers. But I also watched Paralympians strut their stuff in Blind Judo, Sitting Volleyball and Power-lifting. My parents caught a game of Botchia (Balls) played by Paralympians with cerebral palsy and other severe disabilities. The determination and complete concentration of the Botchia players meant that the competitors who often have spasms were able to aim their balls and hit the mark perfectly.

The Excel Centre itself has been heralded by many as an “accessibility oasis” with its wide walk-ways, ramps, and disabled toilets. The atmosphere on the day that I went was just what I’d been feeling already – excitement, pride and admiration for our Team GB. Everyone wanted our Paralympians to win Gold for us, and everyone believed that they could. No question of disability. I was intrigued when a neighbour of mine, who has learning disabilities and consequently struggles as she hasn’t been able to get a job, told me that she hadn’t been watching the Paralympics because the sight of such disabled people made her “want to cry”. I reminded her that these people are achieving great things and it was interesting to think that with a little creativity, with the ability to be adaptable and with the opportunity open to them, Paralympians are able to work in these interesting professions, achieve great things, and lead very comfortable lives. It struck me that they are somewhat less “disabled” than my neighbour. Imagine if the world became as accessible as the Excel Centre and rather than looking at what people with disabilities can’t do, we started thinking about what they can do and were more creative, making adaptations so that people could work in more professions and take part in more activities. If there is any legacy the Paralympic Games of 2012 should leave us, it is that. It can and will happen.

The Closing Ceremony was a fabulous spectacle and shone a light on this concept of creativity. By involving adapted machines and equipment used by disabled performers and highlighting the innovative ways in which they used their own bodies, audiences were reminded of humanity’s ability to adapt, to be creative and to keep trying to do what we can, no matter the obstacles. A friend of mine told me that the sense of pride surrounding the games reminded her of going to Gay Pride in the 1980s. It is that kind of big change that can happen, and it is that kind of pride that can carry us onwards to make that big change. Clare Balding summed it up perfectly at the end of the closing ceremony, saying that the games needed to not only inspire a generation to reach for their dreams, disability or none, but that they have also “changed the way people think.”

Have you been inspired? Have the Paralympic games changed the way in which you think about disability at all? Comment below and share your thoughts with us, we’d love to hear from you!

About the writer: Bryony is a 3rd yr Applied Drama student. When she’s not teaching drama or writing (creative as well as articles) she’s attempting to fullfill her goal of living life to the max. Writing for health & well-being and making a difference here at Yellow Bunting, she loves star-gazing, the theatre, partying, surfing, being outdoors, cider n pasties.

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